My legs are knee deep in swampy reed infested water. I wade through hoping soon my efforts will take me to a place of respite. A simple cool but dry patch of earth is all I seek. A space where my body doesn’t need to struggle to achieve basic functions, like walking.
‘Do Sumo Wrestlers float?’ This amongst many other questions and various sound affects that come from my 10- year-old boy are part of the swampy waters my mind moves through on it’s path to an island of clear thought. What is it exactly I want to think about that is so important anyway? My next book, that cool short story idea, my next blog post, online marketing, self development? It all swirls around and is blocked by ‘Do sumo wrestlers float?’ It’s a fair question. My 10 year-old is trying to make sense of the world in the same way I’m trying to make sense of the world. Are Sumo wrestlers strong from muscle or from just being big and fat? Does having more muscle make you sink? Does being fat make you float?
I want to answer the question but I don’t have an answer. I tell him sumo wresters aren’t just fat. They are really strong. I tell him perhaps we shouldn’t use the word ‘fat’. Is over-weight any better? Being over-weight implies there is a correct weight and that someone has gone over it. How is that better than using the word ‘fat’? I don’t want him taking people’s differences and defining them into negative stereo-types, but how am I, as a parent, supposed to fight against media propaganda, against a sea of messages that are conditioning and shaping all humans, including my son, including myself?
It doesn’t change the fact that at the core are two very good questions. 1. Does muscle make you sink and does fat make you float? 2. Is this question any more or less of a distraction than any other question?
A distraction from what? That’s a third question. A distraction from thinking what you think you want to think?
While writing this I helped my son with homework, I made both my kid’s lunches. I had a coffee. I tweaked my website, I texted hellos with my girlfriend. My mum came in to get help connecting to WIFI and to ask my teenage daughter if she wanted any washing done. My daughter needed help with directions to work experience and I also had to stop her from sticking chop sticks into the toaster to retrieve oversized burning bread. The bread wasn’t fat, it was oversized. I didn’t have time to do the dishes or work on my novel before leaving for work.
The Sumo is still in my mind as I move through the swamp. I think about looking up the answer to the question but it’s one of a thousand questions that my son has asked me. What about the other multitude of questions racing through his mind that he’s not asking me? I’ve decided not to ponder the question any further? Pondering the reason the question is being asked is more revealing. What I had decided was a swamp of unwanted information that was hindering and halting my progress is just a means I’m using to filter incoming data. I can look at all these activities and thoughts placed before me as burdens, as obstacles, as a swamp to wade through or I can appreciate them as the rich texture of my experience.
The need to shape and form and organise information so prevalent in my son’s relentless questioning is something I’m happy I’ve passed on to him, even if it was just via DNA and not as a result of my parenting style.
My intuition tells me that Sumo wrestlers probably float and then after a while sink, just like the rest of us, unless they take some action to get out of the water they’d probably drown. Then of course they might float again.
Perhaps that’s what I’ll tell my son. Of course by the time I see him after school and offer my answer to the original question it may well have been replaced in his mind by another flow of seemingly unrelated questions. My best course of action is to enjoy where his mind takes mine. My thoughts will be waiting for me when I choose to see them.